The Thesis

Thesis Deadlines

When you start planning to write your thesis, pay particular attention to the deadlines for defending and depositing your thesis in order to meet a particular graduation date. Also, you must apply for the degree by a certain deadline in order to be included on the degree list. All deadlines and a useful checklist are posted on the Thesis Office website.

Writing Your Thesis

The Ph.D. degree in Physics certifies your ability to carry out independent research. An essential requirement for the degree is a written thesis describing an original reseach project in physics.

Format of the Thesis

While the content of the thesis is approved by your adviser and the thesis defense committee, the format of the thesis is regulated by the Graduate College. The Graduate College is located at 507 East Green Street, Suite #101. A complete set of instructions for preparing your thesis is available online. Please keep in mind that prior to depositing your thesis with the Graduate College, you must provide a PDF copy of the thesis to the Physics Department Graduate Office, so that the Departmental Format Approval can be completed.

You can find links to thesis templates here.


You must acknowledge the supporters of your thesis research (e.g. the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, etc. in your thesis). Some federal agencies, such as the NSF and DOE, require specific language and disclaimers in the acknowledgment. Check with your thesis adviser for the proper language. In addition, please consult information from the Graduate College Thesis Office regarding very important information on the use of previously copyrighted material, including how to request permission to reprint previously copyrighted material.

Your Thesis Defense

The thesis defense consists of an oral presentation by the student on the motivations for the proposed project, the methods used in the project, and the key results obtained and conclusions drawn in the research. Please keep two things in mind when writing your presentation: First, the presentation should be no more than about 30 minutes in length when given without questions. Committee member questions during the thesis exam typically lengthen the presentation considerably, and the ensuing discussions usually comprise the main body of the 1.5 – 2 hour. Second, the presentation should be written so that members of the thesis committee who are not expert in your subfield can understand the motivations for, methods used in, and results obtained in your project.

Suggestions for writing a ~30 minute scientific presentation appropriate for the thesis defense can be found on the Prelim/Final Defense Workshop site.

It is the candidate's responsibility to contact each member of his or her thesis committee and to schedule a date and two-hour time slot for the exam that all the committee members can attend. The Physics Graduate Office must be notified of the agreed-upon time at least three weeks in advance. It is also the student's responsibility to ensure that any needed A/V equipment is reserved and working properly in advance of the thesis examination. Most conference rooms do have overhead projectors kept in them, but if you need to reserve a portable projector, staff members in Room 213/233 Loomis and Room 38 Loomis can assist with reserving A/V equipment.

After Your Dissertation Defense

After your thesis defense, you should read the following important information regarding depositing your thesis and resigning your appointment: The End Game. It is also important to schedule an Exit Interview with the Grad Programs Associate Head to discuss the proper procedures for resigning your appointment and depositing your thesis with the Graduate College. Please schedule an appointment by contacting the Grad Programs Office.

Depositing Your Thesis

"Depositing your thesis" means submitting the thesis and other mandatory documents to the Graduate College Thesis Office. You will not receive your Ph.D. from the University of Illinois without complying with the detailed instructions for depositing your thesis located at

Posting Your Thesis On-Line

The doctoral dissertation is a published work that announces research results, and the University of Illinois, like other Ph.D.-granting institutions, holds to the tradition that there is an obligation to make research available to other scholars. Every doctoral candidate is required to complete the ProQuest Microfilm Agreement form whereby certain rights are assigned to ProQuest.

In addition, the IDEALS (Illinois Digital Environment for Access to Learning and Scholarship) Database is located at

If you have any questions about thesis requirements, consult the Physics Department Graduate Programs Office.

Graduate Admissions Contact

S Lance Cooper

Lance Cooper
Associate Head for Graduate Programs
227 Loomis Laboratory
(217) 333-3645

Have questions about the admission process?
Read through the Admissions pages or contact us.


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